11.5 inches of rain in 6 days at Outer Banks leaves tourist sites in pools of water

Standing water at the Bodie Island Light Station on July 25
Standing water at the Bodie Island Light Station on July 25

Tourists expect to get a little wet when they go to the beach, but a stunning 11.54 inches of rain has fallen in six days at North Carolina’s Outer Banks, according to the Dare County Airport.

And that’s not the worst of it. In all, 16 inches of rain has been recorded at Cape Hatteras in July, with five more days to go.

Never before has that much rain fallen in a single month on the cape, based on National Weather Service records dating back to 1893. The previous monthly record was in June 1949, when 14.34 inches fell, says the National Weather Service.

This week has seen the worst of it. More than six inches have fallen since Monday, sending water over highways, into public camp grounds and around beloved National Park Service tourist attractions.

The Cape Hatteras National Seashore posted images Wednesday of the Bodie and Cape Hatteras lighthouses rimmed by pools of water deep enough to attract sea birds. The park service added a warning for tourists about the roads, which have seen flash flooding.

“Visitors today will encounter standing water on NC 12,” said the National Park Service post. “Please use caution if you are traveling through the park.”

The lighthouses remained open, but the park had to temporarily close the Cape Point Campground in Buxton due to rainfall, officials said.

On Tuesday, the coastal town of Manteo reported “yards turned into ponds,” according to the Outer Banks Sentinel. “We’ve simply been overwhelmed,” Town Manager Kermit Skinner told the newspaper.

Among the unexpected consequences: A coastal swimming advisory was issued for Dare and Currituck counties on Wednesday. State officials said they feared the run off was rife with bacteria, and might sicken swimmers at nearby beaches.

Tourists appeared to be making the most of it, based on social media videos that show adults and children playing in knee-deep ponds that formed between rental homes and condos.

Sarah Jackson Cahill of Maryland posted a photo on Facebook of herself in ankle-deep water with a beverage in one hand and her dog on a leash in the other.

“Here’s what a vacation in the Outer Banks looks like in a flood. Still so much fun,” she wrote.

Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs